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How to Handle Criticism as a Photographer

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As someone who connects with people on a regular occasion, there are many times you will encounter negative feedback or an angry client. Whether these individuals are interested in helping you fix parts of your business, or are only commenting to upset you, it can be crucial to your success to maintain composure with any criticism. Today, Virginia wedding photographer, Katelyn James is sharing her tips to handling criticism in her business.

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People warned me… “Katelyn, growth doesn’t come without a price.” One in particular once told me that if you’re not being criticized, it could be a sign you’re not taking enough risks. We have hit a place in our business where we can post the most well-meaning content and somehow… despite all efforts to cover our bases and state disclaimers… people will still find a way to be offended.

Related: Feeling uninspired in your business? Click here to change that!

That’s just the world we live in! The more you grow, the more people you reach, the more likely you are to offend someone. Since I’m the “feeler” of my family and always have been, this poses an interesting scenario for me. When I get a pretty harsh blog comment that judges my character, my natural reaction would be to 1. Tell Michael 2. Have a little pity party for myself and then 3. Over analyze everything I’ve ever written, shared, or taught.

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At this point in my business, I can’t respond like that! I’ve recently had several “Get it together Katelyn!” moments over the last several months and I actually think I’m making progress in this area of my life! And because Michael Hyatt always seems to have timely podcasts that directly relate to my life, I thought I would share his take on the subject!

Related: What non-wedding photographers do you follow to enhance your creativity?

He shared in a recent podcast that sources of criticism come in three main forms: Friends, Critics, and Trolls. This was revolutionary to me! After hearing him explain each one, I can totally see how this has rung true in my own life:

Friends: Allow them to speak into your life. They love you and so their criticism is through the lens of love. They want what’s best for you, so don’t shut them down and tune them out!

Critics: These people have a strong opinion. They may come across as harsh, judgmental, and just plain rude, but some aspects of their critique could be helpful. Sometimes critics speak respectively, but have no relationship or knowledge of you personally and so in some cases they may not have the credibility to make accusations. Michael also shared that if someone is willing to sign their name, it’s worth reading. If someone leaves a FAKE name and email and can’t even stand by their comment, I’m going to toss it out.

Trolls: Just straighter HATERS. They aren’t offering criticism to see a change, they are just plain hateful! I have nothing further to say about them…. except they should get a life instead of wasting theirs by just being MEAN! Seriously?! What a waste of time and energy. End rant.

So…. how am I trying to handling criticism moving forward? Here are some steps I’m constantly trying to walk through when the harsh comments come rolling in:

1. Identify the type of criticism

Is it a friend? Is it a critic? If it is a critic, do they have credibility? Or is it a Troll that needs to shut it and go live under a bridge somewhere.

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Walk away. DON’T START RESPONDING…. at least not immediately. I may have a soft, sensitive side but if someone attacks my character, something wells up in me and I enter into “defense mode.” You should NEVER write a response in “DEFENSE MODE.” Wait it out and calm down before responding. If it’s a Troll or Critic with no credibility, I wouldn’t even respond.

2. Share with a trusted friend

If you’re going to respond, share the situation with someone you TRUST before clicking “send.” I can’t tell you how many times Michael has saved me from sending emails in need of editing. Remaining professional as a photographer can help you and your reputation in the industry. Plus, you’ll be happy you did not act in the moment. A close friend can help you create a response which makes a point, but is also something you can be proud of.

3. Remind yourself who you are

You know what you’re about… you know what you stand for… you know your intentions… you know your own heart. I know anyone can slip into selfishness, and priorities can sometimes fall out of line, but that’s where your “friends” come in. If I need an attitude adjustment, I have close friends that I have trusted and allowed to speak into my life. Those are the people (and Michael of course) who can be critical of me and actually have an impact on my decisions. I wish I could say that those were the only people that impacted my feelings, but I am human! 🙂 Ultimately, I have a great support system who keeps me in line… almost like a “Board of Supervisors, if you will! And as long as I have those people there to share constructive criticism, I don’t need to pay attention to anyone else!

So, if you’re someone who has dealt with or is currently dealing with critics and this post resonates with you in some way, share it and tag a friend who you know is struggling with this topic! The sooner you realize what kind of critic you’re dealing with, the easier it is move forward!

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Learning to handle criticism in your business can ensure your reputation stays intact. When you handle situations professionally, people will remember this about your brand and be more apt to work with you. Plus, sharing your images after you receive them back from a wedding photo editing service can help you continue to send the correct brand message to ideal clients. Discover how to showcase more of your brand message with our Guide, 7 Mistakes Wedding Photographers Make (and How to Fix Them)

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